Government to submit assessment for Futenma relocation for USMC by year’s end

September 4, 2011 Kenyu Uchima of Ryukyu Shimpo

At his meeting with Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, at the Okinawa Prefectural Office on September 1, Kimito Nakae, Japan’s administrative vice-minister of defense stated that the Government will submit an environmental impact report by this December on the effect on the environment of the relocation plan of the United States Marine Corps Air Station (USMCAS) Futenma to Henoko, Nago City. The Government will recommence moves on the relocation that effectively came to a halt after the regime change to the Democrat Party in 2009. It is clear that the Government intends to push through with the relocation despite the opposition of the Okinawan people. This will lead to objections from the Okinawa Prefectural Government, Nago City and other local people.

At a meeting of experts on security issues, entitled, “The Okinawa Question” scheduled to be held on September 19 in Washington DC, Governor Nakaima will ask for USMCAS Futenma to be relocated outside Okinawa. The Prefecture will further strengthen its position with regard to moving the Futenma replacement facility outside the prefecture and the gap between the positions of Prefecture and the central government on the Futenma issue will widen further.

The assessment of the plan to relocate the facilities at Futenma to Henoko, which was decided by the Liberal Democratic Party administration, and to build a V-shaped runway in the area of the Henoko coast with part of Oura Bay being reclaimed, is now at the stage of preparing a draft environmental impact report. It is at the final stages, now just needing its submission and evaluation. With the Democratic administration having made a public pledge for it to be “at the minimum, outside the prefecture,” the way to move forward on the relocation is still undecided.

In a joint statement with Japan and the U.S., on May 28, 2010, both governments confirmed their intention that the replacement for the Futenma Air Station be constructed at “Henokozaki and water area adjacent to Camp Schwab.” On June 21 at US-Japan Security Consultative Committee (2+2) they decided to build a V-shaped runway on that location.

At a meeting with Governor Nakaima on September 1, the Ministry of Defense’s position was represented by the administrative vice-minister of defense as well as Ayako Kimura, the counselor responsible for the Futenma relocation issue, Rou Manabe, the deputy executive director of the Regional Cooperation Division, and Satoshi Tanaka, the Okinawa Defense Director. During the closed meeting, there was a comment that a representative of the Ministry of Defense will release the government’s environmental impact report before December. On this occasion, only the beginning of the talks were open to the media. After the meeting with the Governor of Okinawa, on the topic of the Japan-US agreement in which it was decided to build a V-shaped runway at Henoko as the replacement of the facilities of Futenma, Nakae told reporters about the need to eliminate the risk surrounding the Futenma Air Station at the earliest stage possible, and with regard to the relocation process said, “We would like to make steady progress towards actioning the agreement at an early stage.”

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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